Talk Description to Me

Episode 77 - War Photos and Propaganda Art

November 13, 2021 Christine Malec and JJ Hunt Season 3 Episode 77
Talk Description to Me
Episode 77 - War Photos and Propaganda Art
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week, the week of Remembrance Day and Veteran's Day, Christine and JJ examine wartime photos and propaganda posters. In this episode they describe early photographs from the American Civil War, black-and-white snapshots from WWI, and iconic photos and propaganda art from WWII, including The Battle of Iwo Jima, V-J Day in Times Square, and paintings of Rosie the Riveter. 

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JJ Hunt:

Talk description to me with Christine Malec and JJ Hunt.

Christine Malec:

Hi, I'm Christine Malec.

JJ Hunt:

And I'm JJ Hunt. This is talk description to me where the visuals of current events and the world around us get hashed out in description rich conversations.

Christine Malec:

This previous week at various places countries around the world have observed Remembrance Day, Veterans Day. And for our episode at this time last year, we talked about war memorials. And this year, we got to thinking about some of the images, be they they photographs or sort of propaganda images or thing that visuals that have become synonymous with conflicts of the past. And so we thought we would talk about the some of those images. And I was remembering that one of the first instances of photography being used in this context was the American Civil War. And, JJ, you were able to find some images from there, I think.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, there are some great archives. There were dozens of photographers, some private individuals, and some people employed by both the Confederate and Union governments, that, you know, they were, you know, taking pictures of, of the action in the Civil War. And a lot of that information, a lot of those photographs are now housed by the in the National Archives, and you can go and you can look through the photographs, they've got them broken up into different sections. So I went, I went through those, some of those pictures. Really quite interesting. I mean, this was early days in photography, photography was in its infancy in the 1850s, and 60s. So by the time the, you know, the people were taking pictures of the Civil War, there was a bit of a photography culture, but it was very, very young. So photography at that point was done using wet plate glass negatives, the camera cameras were big and bulky, and they required between five to 20 seconds of exposure. So the images there, because of all of those things, the images that we have of the Civil War are of a particular, they required a certain set of circumstances. So there are no there's no action shots of the war, there are no there are no photographs of battle because people needed to stand still for between five to 20 seconds in order to take a picture. A lot of the pictures are, you know, there have their military camps, there have equipment, they are of the aftermaths of battle. So we can talk a bit about those. Again, obviously, they're all black and white. And by today's standards, the photos that we have are, they would be considered imperfect. So they've got a lot of watermarks or specks of black around the edges. And in the corners. These are called artifacts in photography terms. There's also a lot of unusual focus in these pictures because it was difficult to to perfectly arrange focus. So one of the subjects in a group photo, for example, might be very clear and infocus. And the others are not or a background branch on a tree will be brilliantly in focus. But none of the subjects are in focus. So that's the kind of look of a lot of the photographs that we have access to. But like I said, they are digitized there in the National Archives and can be found there. So let's take a look at a few specifics. So there's a photograph of Abraham Lincoln, lot of photos of Abraham Lincoln, of course, an important figure in this time, and always happy to pose for a photo. So I've got a photo here of Abraham Lincoln and two other men standing in the grass in front of a military tent, and this was taken in the fall of 1862. So Lincoln stands in the middle, he's more or less facing us, taller than the other two men quite lean and he looks even taller than he actually is because he's got his stovepipe top hat on. He's wearing a darker suit with a long buttoned jacket that goes down to his knees. His arms are straight at his sides. He's unsmiling and he's looking, you know, past our right shoulder. He's got thick eyebrows, large ears, hollow cheeks, which exaggerate his pronounced cheekbones. And he's got his you know, trademark, dark chin strap beard. He is a bit out of focus as are the other two men. So he's flanked by two men. On our left is Alan Pinkerton. He's the head of the Union intelligence service and later went on to found he was the founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. He's about a half step behind Lincoln. And he's looking at Lincoln looking at this much taller man. Pinkerton's got on a dark wrinkled coat, not a neat suit jacket, but more of a coat. And he has one hand on his hip, and the other hand is reaching into the buttoned coat as if he's searching for something in his inside breast pocket. He's a bit thicker. He's got a very hard gaze with low furrowed brow and a thick but trimmed dark, full beard. He's wearing a rounded bowler hat. And there's frankly something quite menacing about his about the way he's looking at Lincoln, the way he's reaching into his jacket and his very steely gaze. He's on Lincoln team, he's Lincoln's intelligence leader, but if there's still something very menacing about this figure, on our right is Major General John A McLernon. And he is in uniform, uniform is is dark in color, two rows of buttons down the front of his long coat. He's got baggy pants with stripes down the outside of the leg, and he's got a two star patch on his shoulder. He's got a tall hat with a wide curved brim, I think it's called a hardy hat. The shape is somewhere between like a cowboy hat and a fedora. And he's facing Lincoln, so he's turned to face our left, and he's got a bit of a smile that can be spotted beneath his long, thick beard. Pinkerton has a more casual stance, his weight is shifted onto one side, but McLennan has a more military posture, straight back, chest out. And then behind them is an open canvas tent. This is a classic, a frame tent held up by central poles and guidelines. And one of those guidelines extends toward us. And it quite literally steals the focus in this picture. It is what's in focus, not Abraham Lincoln. And so yeah, these three men standing in the grass, there are sparse trees, branches that are overhead. In the background at our left edge of the image down near the bottom, there is a an out of focus man lying on the ground, he's got a dark hat. And he's looking directly at us. And I think this is just a case of, of a person being captured in the background of a photo that is not the subject of this photo. But this man has accidentally been captured in a famous Civil War photo, which is, I always find that kind of amusing. Like I said, lots of photos taken of camps and battlefields. Lots of pictures taken at a distance. So these are pictures of groups of men in dark uniforms. Uniforms always look quite ruffled, often quite baggy, and the soldiers in the Civil War, the unit soldiers were wearing these distinctive kepi caps or I think they're their forage caps, 1858 forage caps, and these caps have short stiff brims and round flat tops, kind of like tin cans with sides made of soft wool. And because of the structure of these hats, they tend to droop and sag, which always adds to the disheveled look of soldiers in the Civil War. The camps feature canvas tents that are always laid in color. And sometimes you get full field tents that look like small cabins made of canvas that are pulled taut with cables and ropes. And sometimes they're the simple a frame variety shaped like, you know, like we just talked about the A frame tent, and some are shaped like teepees. We also get glimpses of equipment and the machines of war. So lots of wheeled guns and wheeled cannons to parallel wheels. And a lot of these things shoulder high, linked by a single axle. And on top of the axle, that's where the tapered cannon is not sure if which ones are guns, which ones are cannons I haven't done full research on, on that kind of military hardware. And the the barrel of the cannon is, is parallel to the wheels points forward. It looks balanced, but there's a brace that angles back from the axle and then digs into the ground for support and stability. So that's some that's kind of some of the field equipment. There are also photos from from the Civil War of the first gunboats that are built in the US. And some really interesting military hardware that you get pictures of, again, all of the pictures from the Civil War are of fairly static scenes, you're not getting a lot of the action shots. So it's posed shots, wide shots of a battlefield or a camp, lots of posed pictures like that.

Christine Malec:

I'm wondering about how new photography was at that time and whether you see a difference in the way people are posing and looking or whether the way the subjects seem to approach the idea of being photographed versus what You see in later photography, or even today in terms of how the subjects of the photograph approach the process?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, I mean, first of all, you have to stand still. So you have to start with that. So anyone who's having their picture taken is fairly rigid, because you're doing your best to not move for 20 seconds. So that's your starting place, which isn't automatically very different than the way people have their picture taken today, which is just so unbelievably casually, that no one you know, you just keep behaving however you want to behave. Because photographs were more, they were rare and important. You tended not to smile, most photos of people, I mean, these are we're also talking wartime images. So there's not a lot of smiling going on in the battlefield, not a lot of smiling going on, you know, before after in camp, but so a lot of people who look stoic or even angry, like that's a, you know, there's there's some jokes that go around about how angry everyone must have been back in the day because no one's ever smiling in photos. But it is very true that, that no one appears to be smiling in any photos from from the early days of photography, but but for me, I think it's a lot about the comfort with body, we are comfortable having our pictures taken now to such an incredible degree that, you know, you get hundreds of pictures of yourself on any given day. And so, you know, you're you're loose and casual, whereas in these early pictures, rigid bodies, very straight, intense, everyone looks tense in these pictures.

Christine Malec:

Let's move ahead to World War One where photo photography must have been even more deliberate.

JJ Hunt:

By the 1900s, photography, equipment and film formats had really changed pretty dramatically, in fact, so cameras were much smaller, less fragile, and photos could be taken under lower light. There was there were cameras that were I mean, really quite accessible to the average person, there's the Kodak Brownie was a very affordable camera. This was a small cardboard box covered in a black imitation leather, leather, it fit into one hand, so you would use to to operate it, I think you hold it in front of your chest and look down through a simple viewfinder on top, the lens, of course pointing straight out and you could take pictures that way. The Kodak even made a pocket camera called the VPK, the vest pocket camera. And it had a front panel and lens that would pop out kind of like a pyramid shaped accordion, you know, in many soldiers took these cameras, these pocket cameras to the front lines even if they weren't supposed to. So because of this, almost anything could be photographed. During World War One, we've got images of actual fighting moments of like real military conflict, we've got casual snapshots, there are moments of great drama, but also the everyday moments, even moments of soldiers lying dead in the field, all of those pictures become part of the visual story of World War One. So we're not just getting the post portraits and images that document the locations and scenes, we're getting more of everything. Again, we're still seeing all black and white photographs. Generally, these pictures are cleaner, there are fewer of those visible artifacts, and with much better focus. So a few examples. Again, lots of these photos are available online. I just plucked out a few that I found kind of interesting, I've got a photo here from the frontlines in France, I don't know exactly the date on this picture. It's a photo of a battlefield at night. And most of the photo was black, it's very, very dark. The bottom half, which is the ground is pitch black. And there's a barely detectable horizon line. And above that it's the skies a little bit lighter. And along the horizon line are dozens of glowing arches. These are bright arches, streaks of light that are somewhat clustered together. And what these are, are the bright light. Tales of mortars streaking through the air shot from one trench, which is presumably closer to us to another trench, which is a little bit further away, and vice versa. So what we get in this photograph are just the light tails of these mortars going back and forth, back and forth. These are the kind of light tails that are similar that like you can create these by drawing in the sky. If you've got a sparkler on the Fourth of July and you kind of whip it around in front.

Christine Malec:

Hmm hmm.

JJ Hunt:

That's the kind of light tail and so you get dozens of these arches in this otherwise pitch black environment really interesting. I've got another image here of by planes flying in formation set against a gray looking sky. There's no horizon in this picture, but there are masts rising up from the bottom edge of the picture. So I'm presuming that we are on a ship peering up at the Sky, and there are maybe 20 by planes flying straight toward us. From this angle, the planes have long straight wings to you know pair of them, the longer straight wing on top, a slightly shorter parallel wing directly beneath it. And centered between them is the nose of the airplane with which has like fixed landing gear on the bottom, you can't see the propellers, they're spinning too fast for the cap for the camera to capture. But these planes are flying in a V formation straight at us. The closest plane is lowest and it's at the center. And there were a pair of slightly smaller planes above and behind, and then a pair above them above and behind and then another above and behind and so forth. So what this forms is a wide flattened V shape of these planes heading straight toward us. A very distinct both military formation and a formation that you see in birds all the time. But I hadn't seen an image like this that featured by planes before you don't think of I think of biplanes as being, you know, antiquated and really kind of gentle. But these are military planes. This was a military assault. And you can imagine the person if this was enemy planes coming straight for their ship, that would have been a terrifying thing to see 20 planes flying straight at you.

Christine Malec:

Ya.

JJ Hunt:

Another image I have here, this is an image from the Macedonian front, troops from India, conducting a gas mask drill. So starting at our far left, and then receding toward the center, middle ground is a line of eight soldiers, and they are facing a shorter bearded man in a turban. That's the turbans got a feather in it, and that man is standing at our right so soldiers on our left, they're facing one officer on the right, the soldiers are all wearing tall boots, baggy riding pants, long wool coats, and gloves. Each soldier wears a turban, and a full gas mask, which covers the entire face. And these masks have perfectly round spectacle like windows at the front in front of the eyes. And there are a corrugated tubes that connect the mask to these little canvas messenger bags that are hanging around their necks worn on the chest. So you can't see any of their faces at all between the turbans. And these masks, you can't see any of the any of their faces, which is quite unnerving. Another photo here of a horse hanging in a sling attached to a chain. So the chain, you know, comes down from the top of the image and holds on to this horse, which seems to be floating in the air, you can't see what's under the horse. And in the background of this image are some white buildings on a wharf. And one of these buildings has a tall slender Tower, a mosques, minaret that's rising up from behind the front of the building. And the caption that I found, says that this is the unloading of a horse in Turkey bound for the Austro Hungarian army.

Christine Malec:

Oh!

JJ Hunt:

Yeah.

Christine Malec:

Oh my god. Is this a time when you start to have photography being used as propaganda?

JJ Hunt:

Yes, definitely. And even more than photography being used as propaganda, paintings. So definitely propaganda art is out there. But a lot of these photos I mean, obviously broad picture propaganda. Absolutely. So some photographs are being put in, in newspapers, there was some conflict at the beginning of World War One debates about how photographs should be used, and who should be taking them. I think there were even some instances of people staging photos of, of military engagements, so recreating scenes, staging them and taking pictures and publishing them in the newspapers. That was a you know, done away with I think fairly quickly. A lot of the propaganda that we think of as propaganda now is a propaganda art, propaganda posters, and and we start to see these in World War One in a totally different way. So with propaganda art, you're presenting a clear, concise message with a political or a social agenda. You're trying to get people to act or behave or think in a certain way. And you want them to respond to your propaganda emotionally. So what you do is you're presenting scenes or characters in dramatic situations with bold slogans, that doesn't necessarily mean high action. It can also just be moments that inspire pride or anger, whatever it is, you want them to evoke dramatic feelings. I really like propaganda art. It's fascinating as an area of study, purely from an artistic standpoint, I'm really taken with it. I love Soviet propaganda, communist propaganda from China and Vietnam. Really fascinating stuff. We can't go too deep into that. But it's fair to say that early British and US propaganda art in general terms, lots of paintings and illustrations, and they featured big bold hand lettered headlines or messages. So again, these are images and messages that are that are supposed to make a direct connections with the audience. One of the most famous ones from from World War One is from the UK. This was the Kitchener poster from 1914. This poster is painted in sepia tones, so browns and tans. And Lord Kitchener, he was the British Secretary of War. And in this recruitment poster, he is looking directly at us he's got arched furrowed brow, right under the brim of his military dress cap. And he has a glorious walrus mustache with upturned points that extend beyond the sides of his face.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

It's a gorgeous mustache. And he's pointing directly at us. He's staring at us. And he's pointing directly at us with a gloved hand. And his hand and finger are actually quite large, because they are close to us, as they're, you know, is pointing right at us. And handprinted words directly under him read your country needs. And then in massive outline letters, you, Your country needs you. And of course, this was the inspiration for the famous Uncle Sam recruitment poster that was made three years later in 1917. So the Uncle Sam poster features the already established character of Uncle Sam, he'd been used in political cartoons and in other bits of propaganda. But for this poster, this is the one that kind of made him famous, and the one that's long lasting, this is the I want you for the US Army poster. It's a color poster. In this case, Uncle Sam is an older white man with kind of ready pink skin. And he's got white hair, long, white goatee, bushy, white brows. And in this poster, he's wearing a blue suit jacket, a white shirt with kind of a floppy red bow tie. And he's got a white top hat with a blue band adorned with white stars. So in both cases, the eyes of these gentlemen are painted such that a sighted person really feels like they are looking right at us.

Christine Malec:

Ah heh heh heh.

JJ Hunt:

So Kitchener has a cold expression, maybe a little angry, but not overly emotional. It's like he's, it's like he's saying, "I'm not going to tell you a second time. And we both know it, right?" Where as Uncle Sam's expression is equally stern, but

Christine Malec:

Ha ha! there's maybe a little bit more emotion in it? I don't know if I'm just reading into this. It's not just that he's angry with us. But maybe Uncle Sam is a little bit disappointed in us Gasp! Ooooh. too.

JJ Hunt:

That's the feeling I get. He's looking right at us. It's a really interesting artists trick, super effective in these propaganda posters.

Christine Malec:

I'm interested in whether there's another side to propaganda photos in which the enemy is depicted in a particularly nefarious way.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, there are lots of those, you know, when I was doing my research, I came up with some of those images. And I mean, they're, they're, they're really gross, because these are not subtle. In the least, they are horrific. And sometimes they're horrific. Because you see a member of the you know, the the, you see an enemy who has done something horrible. So there, there are pictures of a German who has just mowed down a village full of people and you know, this is the enemy, you know, he will kill women and children. So they depict the enemy having done a horrific act. And then some of them are just incredibly racist. The some of the imagery of Japanese people, Japanese soldiers, Japanese citizens, are disgusting. They're hard to even talk about. They're so gross.

Christine Malec:

Ok.

JJ Hunt:

And you know, we're talking about exaggeration of facial features. And using a lot of the fonts, it's kind of awful. But the fonts that we now see on the front of like Chinese restaurants, that are supposed to look generically Asian, they'll be used in this despicable way. They're really they're really offensive. And I can I called up a few of these images and was considering whether or not to describe them. I think it's enough just to know how gross they are. And to know how they are offensive.

Christine Malec:

Ya.

JJ Hunt:

I'm not sure how much additional value there is in...

Christine Malec:

Yeah, yeah, I totally get it.

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, it's a tricky one.

Christine Malec:

it's I just think it's... I know. I just think it's worth mentioning that visuals get used in many ways, and sometimes they are in ways like that that are, you know, grotesqueries.

JJ Hunt:

Exactly.

Christine Malec:

Or very obviously with an intent to vilify a particular group.

JJ Hunt:

It's a really good point. You know, like I said, these posters are, what they're trying to do is create an emotional connection, have you respond in a certain way. And that's not only done by inspiring pride, it's done by inspiring anger and disgust -- -- and hate.

Christine Malec:

Hate. Yeah.

JJ Hunt:

And then they're effective at that for sure.

Christine Malec:

And so obviously, photography and its use, and its intentional use is evolving. And what kinds of things do you start to see by World War Two?

JJ Hunt:

Well, what I found really interesting is by World War Two, I mean, again, that just the amount of material that's available to look at now increases, we've got tons of photos that are available, but we also start to get some of the, you know, the word we use all the time, the iconic photos. These are photos that are woven into our cultures and especially American culture, a lot of the the iconic images of America and Americana and what it means to be, you know, proud of your country, a lot of them from a military standpoint come from World War Two. So we can take a look at a few of those, you know, specific iconic images from World War Two, the Battle of Iwo Jima. This is a photograph by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. The Battle of Iwo Jima was a month long battle between February March of 1945. And it saw US Marine Corps and navy take control of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. During the battle, six Marines carried an American flag with a tall flagpole to the highest point on the mountain. And they were photographed in the act of erecting it. Now, interestingly, a smaller group of soldiers or Marines had already taken a smaller flag up to the top of the mountain. And then this larger group took a larger flag with a photographer. So there was some controversy as to whether or not this was a stage photo. But regardless, the photo itself this is a black and white image. And so it's the ground across the bottom of this of this photo is just a pile of rubble and debris, and there's a gray kind of cloudy sky in the background. Standing in the rubble are six soldiers in camouflage helmets and you know, full full uniforms, camouflage helmets, and there are six of them, but only four of them are fully visible from our point of view. At the front of the group, just a little bit separated from the group on our right is a soldier leaning forward with one knee bent as if performing a lunge. It's that kind of positioning his back is toward us as He guides or maybe even plunges the butt of the flagpole into the rubble. And the flagpole is pointing back toward our upper left and an angle. And it's supported by the other men of the other men in the group. And they're trying to tip the flagpole up. So just to our left of center as the other men, they are gripping the flagpole, they're pushing it upright, it's kind of a mass of bodies, because of their dome like helmets, their outstretched arms and their basic body positioning, we can't actually see any of their faces, we can't even note their skin tone. So this means that kind of be they become this like every man unknown soldier, like each one of them is an unknown soldier to the casual viewer, which is an interesting way, you know, that plays out and how this photo gets absorbed into the culture and reproduced because these soldiers could be any of us, right? They could be any of our kids or, you know, whatever men who went off to war. So they appear this group of soldiers appears to be pushing the flag pull up tipping it up into position with a lot of effort, their knees are bent, their arms are extended, there's a kind of a, there's an energy and a fury. To the actions there's a scramble, the man at the back of the group, so the one furthest on our left, he's reaching up but the flagpole has already tipped away from his hands. So we get a bit of that action because it's already left his hands. The flagpole itself extends back to our upper left with the flag in the upper left hand corner. It's blowing in the wind. So the flag itself is a bit blurred by motion. But the stars and the stripes are still clear. So again, the American flag flapping in the wind, the effort of the soldiers, the symbolism of the planting of the flag, mid battle, this dramatic grouping of subjects that actually kind of resembles the composition of a classical painting. All of this means that it's was you know, ready to become one of the most reproduced photos in American history and certainly a symbol of perseverance and victory.

Christine Malec:

I'm thinking about when I've read about war, or when you see casualties or grave markers, and I'm always crushed by the age Age like 1920. And in the photos that you've described so far, you don't you're not seeing the fresh face like the true youngness the outrageous youngness of soldiers. And is there a place for that in the photography of war that you've seen?

JJ Hunt:

There are lots of pictures of youthful soldiers. I would say, especially when you start looking at pictures of in Vietnam, pictures in the Vietnam War. Certainly, that's what pops to my mind. Off the top of my head. When I think of young soldiers I think of, of young soldiers in Vietnam, they looked like kids. And maybe to me, that's because they looked... they're closer to my era.

Christine Malec:

Yeah, yeah.

JJ Hunt:

So I understand those haircuts, I understand the --

Christine Malec:

You recognize them.

JJ Hunt:

Exactly. Whereas a lot of the pictures from World War One and World War Two, they might look very young, but they still have old fashioned haircuts, and who had those haircuts? Grandmas and grandpas.

Christine Malec:

Oooooh!

JJ Hunt:

So I wonder if that has anything to do with it? And they're black and white. So it's automatically

Christine Malec:

Ok. old. Got it, got it.

JJ Hunt:

You know, I wonder how that plays into it? It's interesting question,

Christine Malec:

Huh? Yeah, I just when you read it, the numbers are just, you're just... They're so young, and the older we get the younger they seem.

JJ Hunt:

Exactly, exactly.

Christine Malec:

So let's go back to World War Two, there's more images to talk about?

JJ Hunt:

Yeah, another iconic photo, of course, the V J day in Times Square photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. This is a completely different image of victory, but it's every bit as iconic. So this is the moment that it's been reproduced and referenced a dozen times hundreds of different ways. This is the moment when a sailor in uniform kisses a nurse in Times Square on victory in Japan Day. So that's August 14 1945. And it's really well known if you ask a sighted person to describe this iconic image from memory. I mean, probably anyone over the age of 30 will be able to do so. And they're probably going to know a lot of the key elements just off the top of their head. But there's a lot of details that also need to be kind of maybe re examined from a modern perspective. So like I said, you ask a sighted person to describe this, they're probably going to remember the basic framing the basic setup of this picture, the man and woman are front and center in this black and white photograph. Behind them is an arching line of smiling onlookers. And then on either side of the image behind the onlookers are the buildings of Times Square, and they're receding on either side of the image toward the center toward the famous tower of billboards and signs that's centered right behind the kissing couple. So most people are going to remember that the sailor is a lean white man in a dark uniform with a white sailors cap, they're going to remember that the woman he's holding in his arms is a slim white woman, wearing a white nurse's uniform with blocky white heels, white tights and a slightly flared white skirt, you're probably going to remember that the sailor is gripping the nurses waist and bending her backwards. So like a dip, he's dipping her in dancing terms, and he's giving her a great big kiss. She's got one leg a little bit behind the other one, her knees slightly bent, her heel is raised off the ground as the sailor leans down to kiss her. So this is the you know the picture of strangers Kissing in public, overcome with the joy of the moment. But there are some really important details that a lot of sighted people don't remember if they even considered them at all depending on when they first encountered this image. So most of the important details involve the manner in which the sailor is holding the nurse. So as he dips her, he's actually got her really quite trapped in his arms. So it's a little hard to describe. So to understand their positioning, pretend to be the sailor, so you are the sailor, if you turn your head so that you're looking down at your left shoulder. Now you want to make a fist with your left hand and bend your left elbow like you're flexing like you're showing off your bicep, and then you bring your fist toward you until it touches your forehead and what you've done is created like a triangle shape. Right? This is a small space between your face and the crook of your elbow. And this is where the nurses head is. The crook of the sailor's elbow holds the back of the nurses neck and his forearm is pressed against the side of her face. So he's actually got her in a forearm headlock. Now, photos are taken quickly. Sometimes awkward moments get captured in these pictures, but it is worth noting in this picture that positioning is decidedly a forearm headlock.

Christine Malec:

Ugh.

JJ Hunt:

I know it's it's, it's kind of awful.

Christine Malec:

Ugh!

JJ Hunt:

His right hand is gripping the nurse's hip. And his hand is big so it's kind of going around to the small of her back. And his hand looks really very strong and engaged, his fingers look like they're digging into her uniform. There are, you know, veins popping up on the back of his hand and up his forearm that make his grip look quite tight. I can't comment on how tight it actually is. But I can tell you that the veins popping make it look quite tight. The photographer of this image, he actually took four pictures, he took four frames. In some of them, the woman's arm that we can see is hanging down at her side. But in at least one of those images, her hand is up at his jaw. And some conclude, some people say that she's actually punching him or shoving his face back. Again, I can't tell that. But I can tell you that in one picture. Her hand is up at his jawline. And then when you add all of those details to the photographer's story, that this soldier was drunk and walking through the square, and was just abruptly and haphazardly grabbing and kissing one woman after the other... You know, as someone who's thinking about those details, so that I can describe them, I have to ask myself, What is this picture really about? Right? What's the actual moment that's being captured by this photographer?

Christine Malec:

Ugh. I want to go have a shower. That's disturbing.

JJ Hunt:

I know. For me it fundamentally changes what this picture is about -- those details. It's a it's a beloved picture. There are statues of this, it gets recreated regularly. And flipped, right? So there are a lot of recreations of this image that are a woman kissing a man like you know, dipping a man or two women, one dipping the other. Usually when it's recreated there's no headlock involved. There's more of a cradling of the head. But in the photo in the original photo... Yeah, yeah. It's hard to deny... if I was going to describe it without any context, I would have to say that it looks like he's got in a headlock.

Christine Malec:

Let's move on to Rosie the Riveter. Rosie the Riveter beloved by many for many reasons!

JJ Hunt:

Totally. Rosie the Riveter flexing her bicep, right? Rosie is a feminist icon. So the original poster that a lot of us think of when we think of Rosie the Riveter was made in 1942. It features a waist up portrait of a white woman with dark hair that's largely tucked under a tide red and white polka dot bandana. She's got fine features, thin sculpted eyebrows, long lashes and kind of tight lips. And she's looking directly at us as she rolls up the sleeve of her blue coveralls to show her flexed bicep, and she's set against a yellow backdrop, and there's a dark blue speech bubble across the top of the poster that occupies the upper edge of the frame. In that speech bubble is the phrase we can do it in large white letters. each word is capitalized and it is end sentences ended with an exclamation point. So Rosie is an important feminist icon. This image you know there are great Halloween costumes that come of Rosie. I've seen fantastic tattoos of this. It's a great piece of propaganda art. But this actually isn't Rosie the Riveter. This poster was made for the Westinghouse Corporation and it was posted for two weeks inside a Westinghouse factory to motivate the staff it wasn't used as a recruitment poster or or used outside of the factory at all. The model or the character in this poster was never at the time referred to as Rosie it was just referred to as the we can do it poster. And actually after it was used for two weeks in the factory it would kind of disappeared for decades. And it wasn't until the 1980s that it was rediscovered and mistakenly identified as a poster of Rosie the Riveter.

Christine Malec:

Gasp. Oh!

JJ Hunt:

Because, well Rosie the Riveter was an actual character from that time. In 1943 there was a song called Rosie the Riveter and then a few months after that song was released, Norman Rockwell painted a painting of the real Rosie the Riveter for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. That is the real Rosie the Riveter in Rockwell's posts a painting and cover. Rosie is a big brawny white woman with short curly red hair, red lips and she's got grease smears on her plump kind of rosy red cheeks, and she seated facing us with her feet pressing down on a tattered yellow Copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, and she's wearing blue denim overalls with rolled up cuffs. And so these cuffs on her overalls they expose her brown leather loafers and red socks. And high on the bib of her overalls is a row of pins that include a red cross pin and a V for Victory pin. And under her overalls, she's wearing a blue collar shirt with the sleeves rolled up high on her arms, and this accentuates her really impressive biceps. These are big, beefy, strong arms, not lean and muscular. Thick and strong. She's got a big industrial riveting gun that's across her lap. This is a like a greasy steel tube with a snake like pneumatic air hose that curves down from the hook handle and poking out of one pocket of her overalls, just a tiny little detail, is a delicate white hanky and a pale pink compact.

Christine Malec:

Ha ha ha!

JJ Hunt:

And then on her forehead, she's got a pair of welding goggles. She's got a clear welding shield that's kind of flipped back high on her head, which kind of ended up looking like a halo. This image is packed with symbolism and even religious imagery. So I mean the book under the foot, the snake like air gun hose, the Halo, the riveting gun, the buttons, all of these things deeply symbolic. Her pose is actually lifted straight from a painting of the prophet Isaiah that Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel. It's really amazing. So like I said, She's seated, she's facing us. She has one foot kind of tucked behind the other and her knees have fallen open ever so slightly. She's got a black tin lunchbox that's balanced on her thigh. So one of her arms is crossing her body to grip the lunchbox and the other arm is bent with the elbow resting on top of the lunchbox and in that hand, she's holding a ham sandwich up at head height. So she's on her lunch break, but she's turning away from the sandwich. Her chin slightly raised her eyes looking down with her eyelids almost closed. She says she's got this very confident in controlled, powerful but calm expression. And she's perched on this. It's like a greasy box of some kind really looks kind of like a pedestal and we're looking up at her ever so slightly. And of course behind her in the background is a waving American flag and slightly muted tones. So this is like this is the real Rosie and we know it's a real Rosie, because painted on her lunchbox in big white letters is her name Rosie. That's how we know this is the real Rosie the Riveter.

Christine Malec:

That's it I'm heading off right now to get myself a little white hanky and a pink compact. We hope you're loving the show. We really enjoy the challenge of putting together a new episode each week. To ensure that our efforts are worthwhile. We need to reach as many people as possible. That's where you come in. Help spread the word. Maybe send a podcast link to three friends. Post about the show on local lists serves and Facebook groups. Perhaps tweet about a favorite episode and tag some followers you think might like it, or show your love by becoming a patron. The broader reach the longer we can stay Boyd and keep afloat. With your support. We'll be around for a long time. Thanks for listening and staying connected on social media. It's what makes this so rewarding for us have feedback or suggestions of what you'd like to hear about. Here's how to get in touch with us. Our email address is talk description to [email protected] Our Facebook page is called Talk description to me. Our website is talk description to me.com and you can follow us on Twitter at Talk Description.

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